World Languages BenefitsIn our increasingly interconnected world, few dispute the utility of knowing a second language for personal or professional reasons, but why start learning it early?
Anyone who spends time with very young children might notice how quickly children "catch on" to things. Let an inappropriate word slip, and your three-year-old will repeat it ad nauseam. Cognitive studies have shown that young children acquire language rapidly in a way that they never will once they get older. In fact, they can pick up the structures and phonetics of multiple languages, given enough exposure. And if students are allowed continued exposure to a second language throughout a long, well-articulated sequence of study, they can attain levels of proficiency that others who start learning languages later in life simply can't.
- "A child taught a second language after the age of 10 or so is unlikely ever to speak it like a native." Sharon Begley, "Your Child's Brain," TIME, 2/19/1996
- "The power to learn language is so great in the young child that it doesn't seem to matter how many languages you throw their way... They can learn as many spoken languages as you allow them to hear systematically and regularly at the same time." Dr. Susan Curtiss, UCLA professor of linguistics, as quoted in "Gray Matters: The Developing Brain," broadcast by Public Radio International and produced in association with the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives
- "The ability to learn a second language is highest between birth and the age of six, then undergoes a steady and inexorable decline. Most adults still manage to learn new languages, but usually only after great struggle." J. Madeleine Nash, "Fertile Minds," TIME, 2/3/1997
- "In addition to developing a lifelong ability to communicate with more people, children may derive other benefits from early language instruction, including improved overall school performance and superior problem-solving skills." Kathleen M. Marcos, "Learning a Second Language: What Parents Need to Know," OUR CHILDREN, August/September 1998
- "Foreign language classes... not only help kids gain language skills but also help them build self-esteem, thinking skills, math ability, and an appreciation of different cultures." Lynne S. Dumas, "Learning a second language," CHILD, February 1999